Archive for the ‘improv tips’ Category

How to be a good improv student

June 18, 2007

1. Turn up on time, turn your phone off.

2. Always volunteer, especially for the things you’re bad at.  Ideally everyone should volunteer for everything, this makes everyone feel braver than they really are.  Too many volunteers is the best kind of problem for an instructor to have.

3. Tell the truth.  Don’t just feed the instructor what you think they want to hear.  They can teach you better if they know where you’re really at.

4. Give it a shot.  Even if you disagree with the activity, or you have no interest in that kind of improv, do your best to make it work.   If you don’t commit to it then you’re guaranteed to get nothing out of it, is your time that worthless?

5. Don’t try to impress us with how good you are.  Don’t bring out your best material, and don’t plan ahead to avoid mistakes.  Approach the workshop honestly and you’ll learn more.  Which is in itself impressive.

6. Fail with good humour.  Not only is making mistakes the best way to learn, but if you can fail with good humour, then the whole vibe of the workshop can become more positive and more supportive.

7. Work with as many people as you can.  Don’t just work with the people you know and like, spread the love.

8. Remember, everything is a muscle.  If you want to get better at something, you just gotta keep working on it.

A new kind of standing ovation

May 27, 2007

I’ve been to a lot of improv workshops where, quite frankly, not enough improvising happens.

One possible solution is, as Keith Johnstone says, ‘let nothing be discussed that could be acted out’ (not an exact quote).
Another idea is to allow no discussion at all between scenes, which keeps people in improv mode, not discussion mode.

However, I think there is a lot of value in a little discussion between scenes. This morning I was reading this article by Seth Godin on running effective meetings, and I was quite taken by this idea;

I think most of the time, most meetings should be held without chairs. People standing up think more quickly and get distracted less often. And the meetings don’t last as long.

While I don’t think it would be productive to have players stand during other player’s scenes, it might be good to have everyone stand between scenes.


-People encouraged to stay on topic.
-People are already standing and ready for the next scene to start.

Spontaneous Appluase, How to manufacture

May 7, 2007

I remember hearing a story about an old stage actor whose performances would always earn a spontaneous round of applause from the audience.

Turns out that as he walked into the wings he would start clapping, and the audience would follow suit.

I felt a bit dodgy at first, but it’s really a great way to signal the end of an improv scene*.

I also use this when I’m judging High School competitions.  If the performers are not finding an ending, I’ll just start clapping.  The rest of the audience always joins in.

*Note: This only works if the scene ends with your character offstage.